Corsican Cantu in paghjella Declared Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Corsican group A Filetta
Corsican group A Filetta
The UNESCO Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, chaired by Awadh Ali Saleh Al Musabi (United Arab Emirates), identified The Cantu in paghjella of Corsica an intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding during its recent 2009 session in Abu Dhabi.

The paghjella is a male Corsican singing tradition. It combines three vocal registers that always enter the song in the same order: segonda, which begins, give the pitch and carries the main melody; bassu, which follows, accompanies and supports it, and finally terza, the highest placed, which enriches the song. Paghjella makes substantial use of echo and is sung a capella in a variety of languages including Corsican, Sardinian, Latin and Greek.

As both a secular and liturgical oral tradition, it is performed on festive, social and religious occasions: in the bar or village square, as part of liturgical masses and processions and during agricultural fairs. The principle mode of transmission is oral, largely through observation and listening, imitation and immersion, commencing first as part of young boys’ daily liturgical offices and then later at adolescence through the local Church choir.

Despite the efforts of its practitioners to revitalize its repertoires, Cantu in paghjella has gradually diminished in vitality, due a sharp decline in intergenerational transmission caused by emigration of the younger generation and the consequent impoverishment of its repertoire. Unless action is taken, Cantu in paghjella will cease to exist in its current form, surviving only as a tourist product devoid of the community links that give it real meaning.

Recommended recordings:

Chants religieux de tradition orale de Rusiu (Unesco, 1977)
Messa Nustrale de Sermanu (Editions Consul, 1977)
Cantu sacru di Rusiu – Chjami Aghjalesi (Editions Ricordu, 1991)
L’ Altu Pratu di a Mimoria & Populu Vivu  – Chjami Aghjalesi
Nant’a U Solcu di a Storia-Esse-Chuntrasti E Ricuccate – Chjami Aghjalesi
Voce di Corsica : Polyphonies (Editions Olivi Music, 1994)
Polyphonies vol II – Voce di Corsica (Editions Vocisula, 2005)
Rinvivisce – Canta U Populu Corsu

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central

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